To La.’s Accountability Commission, As They ReVAMp Teacher Evals
In 2010, Louisiana Representative Frank Hoffman authored the bill to include student test scores as part of teacher evaluations.
Hoffman said that he “would never do anything that would hurt good teachers”– an irony, since via his bill, Hoffman had decided that the definition of a “good teacher” is one whose value can be assessed via value-added modeling (VAM), a procedure with results shown to be highly erratic in piloting done after the bill was signed into law in May 2010.
Hoffman’s words in May 2010, as recorded in the Times-Picayune:
Hoffman replied that if the plan doesn’t work after two years, “I’ll be the first and the loudest arguing to do away with it.”
Well. It’s 2014; the pilot test results have been largely ignored, VAM was shelved in 2013-14 because (lo and behold), it did not magically and surgically separate the “bad” teachers from the “good,” and on September 25, 2014, Hoffman is quoted in the Baton Rouge Advocate as follows:
State Rep. Frank Hoffmann, a West Monroe Republican and sponsor of the 2010 law that overhauled the annual reviews, noted that he vowed four years ago to try to change the process again if problems surfaced.
“I’m not wanting to do away with it,” Hoffmann said. “I want to get it right.”
The truth is that trying to tie any student test scores to teacher performance– whether via VAM or “student learning targets”– amounts to nothing more than a crap shoot.
Roll the dice, teachers. Your career is on the line, and all that you *control* is the toss of the dice. The outcome– how the dice *should* land– is set by those who haven’t a clue what they are doing.
Teachers cannot directly control student test scores except via unethical and dehumanizing tactics, yet we are being told that we must control the scores or be declared *ineffective.*
The September 25, 2014, Advocate article focuses on “the Accountability Commission, an influential, 17-member panel that includes teacher and other educators, school group leaders and parents.”
So, if we get a group of professionals together, we will (a John White favorite word) *tweak* this teacher-performance-as-gauged-by-student-test-scores issue in order to clearly separate the *ineffective* teachers from all who are *effective*; purge them from the classroom, and keep only the *effective* teachers, who will know they are valued and not flee the profession.
It cannot work.
Any incorporation of student test scores into teacher evaluations only introduces imprecision into the evaluation process. A (dare I write) *close reading* of the VAM study presented to legislators in February 2011 is evidence enough of the folly that this committee continues to pursue in the name of *effective* teaching if it insists upon including student test scores to gauge teacher value.
Test-driven “reform” likes to state that it is also “data driven” in its decisions.
I say to this committee: prove it.
Operationalize your definitions of “teacher effectiveness”– which, by the way, must be done by human beings using their human judgment– and then pilot test over time (I’m talking years) and varied teaching situations any and all proposed evaluation measure(s) against the established definitions to assess the degree to which those teachers determined by human beings to be “”effective” and “ineffective” are actually found to be so via the measure(s) in question.
A solid measure is one that classifies and reclassifies “effective” as “effective” regardless of changes in student population or district.
If the students are bright and motivated, “effective” teacher is found “effective.”
If the students are intellectually and motivationally challenged, “effective” teacher is found “effective.”
If the district is wealthy and support staff abound, “effective” teacher is found “effective.”
If the district is financially strapped and the teacher must regularly supply materials for his/her students, “effective” teacher is found “effective.”
If parents are highly involved in the life of the child, “effective” teacher is found “effective.”
If the parents are missing in action, “effective” teacher is found “effective.”
If the results are erratic and mixed– which they are likely to be given the complex nature of teaching, learning, and (yes) child rearing– then, Committee, you must openly admit as much and not use the proposed evaluations.
But if you focus on only trying to rubric me, you widely and sadly miss the mark.
The best way to go about your charge is to step back and consider the punitive nature of trying to “weed out” the “bad” teachers. No matter the evaluation method you settle upon, if you continue in this accusatory vein, then you will not stop the “effective” teachers from fleeing the profession.
It’s that simple.
And there is no getting around the fact that the best way to assess teachers is for the school administration to do so. Those administrators whose careers began in the classroom are familiar with the classroom from a teacher’s perspective, and they have a vested interest in their schools.
I am not referring to positioned, empty-souled educationists like John White.
I mean real administrators who feel pride in their profession.
Value them, and encourage them to value their teachers. Train them and encourage them to face their responsibility for confronting “ineffective” teachers– but don’t drive them into a corner of levying judgments of “ineffective” by imposing artificial, student test score outcomes as criteria to “purge” their schools.
Student test scores are designed to gauge student achievement. That is not the same as gauging teacher performance.
I am asking you, Committee, to admit this to yourselves. Read the VAM pilot results and just admit it.
I am so much more than my students’ test scores.
This week, I had to “set” my “student learning targets.” I had to determine how many students had achieved the “benchmark” score on their latest standardized tests and “promise” to “raise” a set percentage of those scores in order to be declared “effective.”
I do not directly control test score movement. I find out where my students are in their learning (and their maturity as multifaceted human beings), and I endeavor to move them forward so that they might lead fulfilling, productive lives.
It’s all I’ve ever done, really, as a teacher.
It’s what I plan to keep doing, period.
Like my writing? Read my ed “reform” whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education